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Plans moving ahead to fence Auburn Airport

$60,000 available for design of fence around North Auburn facility
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The long-discussed issue of completely fencing in the Auburn Airport is taking flight. But the question of just when the barrier goes up is still a big question mark. The Auburn City Council, the decision-maker for the North Auburn airport, is being asked to OK a $60,000 expenditure tucked into a larger package of airport spending that will allow airport engineering firm Jacobs Engineering to design the fencing project. Bernie Schroeder, city public works director, said Wednesday that the Federal Aviation Administration is providing funding as part of its desire to provide a higher level of safety through fencing all airports, including smaller ones like Auburn’s. The north side of the airport runway was fenced about a decade ago in an effort to prevent animals and smaller vehicles like motorcycles from entering but the entire airport has yet to be fenced off, Schroeder said. “Wildlife is the biggest concern,” Schroeder said. Plans are for the fencing to be completed in stages with timing dependent on funding, Schroeder said. “There would be limited access at a gate entrance,” Schroeder said. “It would be limited to folks who belong in the airport.” Schroeder said that one of the airport’s most popular destinations for area residents, the Wings restaurant, has a parking lot outside the facility’s boundaries, so would not be directly affected by the fencing. The fence proposal is being questioned by at least one other business. Rick Wallin, sales associate with TGH Aviation, said that because the shop owns its property adjacent to the tarmac and is not part of the municipal airport, a fence would have a big impact. “They’ve been talking about it for years,” Wallin said. “It would be a big mistake and would hurt our business.” The Auburn Aviation Association, a group of pilots, business people and airport proponents, is resisting the fence idea. Association President Wayne Mooneyham said that the longer the area remains without a fence the better. “We are one of the few active small airports that still remain unfenced,” Mooneyham said. “The longer we can postpone it, the greater freedom for airport users, aircraft users and casual visitors who walk their dog or circulate among the airplanes and the airport property. Our feeling is if they never fenced our airport, we would be happy.” The fencing requirement by the FAA has been in effect for a number of years and most others in the area have been fenced in for some time, Mooneyham said. “We see it coming down the pike because of our size and the airport becoming more and more of a business park,” he said. “We do get a fair amount of non-flying public out and about on the premises – which we encourage as long as we don’t have theft and vandalism problems. And we haven’t had those for years. Our feeling is that fencing is a very low priority.” Schroeder said the actual fencing of the airport could be several years away. Until then, the debate for and against will continue on a requirement that has no stated deadline to complete.